Why My Second Grader Eats a Frog Every Week

Mom Moment 24

"There," my 8-year-old says, banging his fists on the kitchen table for emphasis. "Frog. Eaten." We high-five, and I scoop up his work and arrange it carefully in a folder. He doesn't have to return it until Thursday, but we have a ritual in our household: we eat our frog on Monday, the same day it's assigned.

He's not actually eating a frog, of course. I mean, this is the kid who once peered with great suspicion at an orange and asked me what flavor it was (Me: "It's ... it's ORANGE. It tastes like a goddamned -- um, a goshdarn orange"). The only way Picky Von Fussypants would consume a frog is if it were somehow blended and baked into a package of rainbow-dyed Goldfish crackers.

In my household, when we refer to frog-eating, we're talking about tackling school homework before it has a chance to become a Looming Burden of Entropy and Despair.

The eating-a-frog notion comes from the quote attributed to Mark Twain:

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

It's human nature to put off unpleasant tasks, right? I explained it to my son like this: "If I told you you were going to have to eat a live frog sometime tomorrow, would you want to spend your entire day dreading how that frog was going to taste, or would you want to just get it over with right away?" He agreed that he'd prefer to put it behind him as soon as possible (although to be honest, I know my kid and here's what he'd really do: argue about the frog directive for 12 solid hours without stopping to take a breath).

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Every day that a homework assignment gets put off, the more weight and dread gets accumulated until what was once a fairly simple job now feels like summiting Everest. Blindfolded. Tied to a pack of ravenous wolves. I know this from personal experience, because I had a MAJOR challenge with homework when I was a kid. Looking back, it's hard to even understand what my problem was -- for god's sake, why didn't I just do it? Why did I continually procrastinate, hide assignments, lie to my mother about how much work I had to do, and subsequently get terrible grades because I was never turning anything in?

I created so much trouble for myself over this habit, and I can still remember the full-body panic of realizing -- over and over -- that I'd have to face the repercussions of my own carelessness. (And yet it never seemed to occur to me that I could save myself a lot of drama by simply completing the work I've been given.) To this day, I'm convinced that my steadfast refusal to do homework on time (or at all) was the catalyst that led to my unhappy teen years: I was a fuckup in school, and my relationship with my mother degraded horribly as a result.

Anyway, I guess it's safe to say I have some lingering issues about homework. I really, really, really don't want my boys to fall into the same bad habits that I did. Hence: eating the frog.

Of course, as a second grader my son doesn't have a ton of homework yet. Since school started, he seems to be getting about three or four assigned pages per week. The math and spelling worksheets come home Monday, and our routine is that as soon as he gets home, I fix him a snack, then we sit down at the kitchen table and worship at the altar of Larry the Cable Guy, Patron Saint of Frog-Eating.

I didn't personally develop strong productivity and time management skills until a few years ago, when I began working as a freelancer. The key there was losing the majority of my external motivators, so maybe requiring my son to do his homework at a certain day is actually failing to teach him responsibility. Wouldn't that be JUST LIKE PARENTHOOD, to try to do the right thing and screw your kid up in the process.

Still, I'm hopeful that the pleasurable feeling being all done with homework for the entire week by 4 p.m. on Monday will linger. I hope my kids will learn that being proactive goes a hell of a long way towards being successful. I hope they'll always believe, at least a little bit, in eating their frog.

What's your approach to your kids' homework? Do you manage their time or leave them to do it when they're ready?

Images via apc33/Flickr, Ticketmaster

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Katha... Katharine205

Mine is in Kindergarten and has assignments once a week that are optional to complete and hand in (hey, it's kindergarten) and today is the first week I've managed to get them into her home/school folder.  I was also pretty shitty at doing homework in school from about 3rd grade on.  I'd fail the homework part (because I just didn't do it) and then ace the test, used to piss my mother off to no end.  Apparently my sucking at homework is carrying on into sucking at helping my daughter complete her homework :/

Jennifer King

My daughter is in kindergarten this year, and has what I feel is a large amount of homework. It's required, not optional. She get's two worksheets a day for Monday through Thursday, sight words that need to be learned to recognize/spell and a book to read daily. I split it up for the most part.. Two worksheets a day, the book and then a few words. By Friday morning it's all done. Some weeks when we have something to do during the evening I will add an extra page a day or something so it still gets done. The hardest part is that she is 5, and burned out by 3:30/4:00. She doesn't want to focus therefore, probably isn't retaining much..

nonmember avatar Kristi

My first grader always gets his done but honestly some days it is a struggle. I really wonder how I am educated since I didn't have homework until I was in the 6th grade.

Lovin... LovinJerseyMama

My daughter is in kindergarten and brings home two homework assignments each afternoon, Monday through Thursday, that have to be completed each day and turned in the next. She is also required to read 15 minutes a day after school and log which books were read. I think it's fantastic that the school puts an emphasis on education after hours. It takes us all of a half hour to forty-five minutes after school to finish everything. She enjoys it and I enjoy spending the time with her. Education is really lacking these days so I'm glad we have a good teacher & school system that asks more from their students and incorporates parental involvement with the students' learning. 

nonmember avatar Trina

My 3rd grader has one sheet of math a night and 20 minutes of reading. They send the math home each day so they can't do it all on Monday. The math sheet is what they discussed in class that day.

My kindergartner has a ridiculous amount of homework each week. The packet that came home yesterday has 26 pages in it. Plus there is 10 minutes of reading a day. I have him do as much as he can each day.

A teacher once told me that having them do a small amount each night starts a routine of homework time so when they are in the upper grades they are already used to doing homework each night.


Finally had to courage to read the post because the title kind of freaked me out....like, EWWWWW!

But now that I read the post/article ***whew***....my kids' elementary days are one big nasty blur for me...hated every minute of it...I THINK we got it done right then and there.  Oh well, they are in their last year of college--so I guess they must of have got it done in a timely manner.  Ha!

JoAnna Rossman Smith

This is a great idea! I'll have to remember this when my kid goes to school.

Rochelle Borne

It's training! So, even though you're "requiring" him to do it now, it's teaching him a habit! My daughter is a sophomore now and very much in the throes of "why don't you let me take responsibility for all of the things in my life???" stage. And so we have handed her the keys to certain things, homework being one of them. When she was young, we definitely had a set time of sitting down and getting it done and it seems to have paid off. When she gets home from school, most days she just sits down and gets it done!

Marin... Marine101

LovinJerseyMama and  Jennifer King: what school do your kids attend? I LOVE that they challenge your kid(s) mind(s) even after the final bell rings. It sets them up for future success. 

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